Time is ticking, the state governments and several hospitals across the country are keen to procure the vaccine stocks to roll out the expanded vaccination drive announced by the government from May 1, for which the registration on the Co-Win app commences on April 28. It is to open up vaccination against COVID-19 to anyone who is over 18 years old. However, as things stand, there are growing concerns over limited stocks as the vaccine companies are channelizing the available vaccine doses for the Central government.
This is besides many unanswered questions on the issues around final pricing and actual share of supplies and the exact modalities to execute the expanded vaccination drive. The stock of vaccines with the hospitals today is under the old system and targeted at meeting the needs of the population that is 45 years and above, some of whom are awaiting the second dose. According to a senior leader of a leading private hospital, these stocks cannot be diverted to the younger age group and there is still no clarity on meeting the supplies and the pricing for the expanded age group.
Financial Express Online learns that vaccine makers like Serum Institute, for instance, which is the largest maker of the vaccine currently in the country, are looking forward to clarity from the central government on these modalities crucial for the continuation of the vaccination drive in the country.
There are already aggressive demands for vaccines being made by the states. Financial Express Online reliably learns that several states and hospitals have reached out to the Indian vaccine-makers – for instance, at least over 20 states apart from several hospitals have already approached Serum Institute of India. Apparently, the demand is for several million doses for each state but then, as it appears, it all hinges on the need for clarity on the modalities of how this is to be executed? Little is also known on how are the companies to decide which state to supply to and where not to and why the vaccination cannot be based on red zones and targeted first to regions that are in greater need and what safeguards are put in place to ensure a fair distribution.
However, it is not as if life will change overnight. Because, even if all clarity – including that on final pricing and share to various entities – is in place, the vaccine makers may not be able to immediately help as they are currently busy completing the supplies of vaccines already booked by the Centre. Serum Institute, for instance, it is learnt will be busy till around May 10 trying to meet whatever remains of its supply commitments made to the Central government.
Thereafter, if the modalities are clear on the supplies to the states and hospitals, vaccine makers like Serum Institute could begin their supplies. Bharat Biotech is still not sharing details on the quantum of demand made by various states and how it will be dividing the kitty between the states and the hospitals.
The vaccines are all also still under emergency use authorization and therefore clarity on their supplies is crucial.
A thorny issue that needs sorting out is after the 50 percent of total supplies are made to the Central government, how is the remaining 50 percent to be divided between the states and the hospitals. There is still no clarity on the final prices, even though vaccine makers have announced the prices, there are reports already of the Supreme Court seeking more clarity on the rationality underlying the vaccine pricing apart from reports of even the Centre appealing to the vaccine makers to reduce their prices.
For the moment, one can only hope it does not end up in chaos and that the government steps in – even as a last-minute move – to clarify and address all the concerns.